When you have physical pain, you may also struggle mentally and emotionally. There is a connection between chronic pain and depression, including their causes and their treatment. At times, the connection may actually feel like a vicious cycle but there is help for both conditions.
Acute and Chronic Pain
Pain is your nervous system’s signal to tell you something may be wrong with your body. Pain can feel like a sting, a burn, an ache, or a prick, and it can be sharp or dull. The two types of pain are acute and chronic.
Acute pain is a one-time or short-term type of pain that is the result of an injury or other issue that needs medical treatment. Chronic pain may last for weeks or months, and sometimes even for years. While the cause may have been an injury, ongoing causes of chronic pain can also include conditions such as arthritis. Sometimes there is no clear cause of the chronic pain, which can also be made worse by psychological or environmental factors.
Common Cause of Disability
Over 1.5 billion people across the globe are known to suffer from chronic pain. In the US, it is the most common cause of long-term disability, affecting approximately 100 million people. Chronic pain can involve:
- Arthritis pain
- Cancer pain
- Postsurgical pain
- Neurogenic pain (pain caused by nerve damage)
- Post-trauma pain
- Lower back pain
- Psychogenic pain (pain that isn’t caused by disease, injury, or nerve damage).
Chronic Pain and Depression
Chronic pain and depression often co-exist, as living with pain that occurs every day can be emotionally and physically stressful. Chronic stress changes the levels of stress hormones and neurochemicals that are found in the nervous system and brain, which can affect behavior, thinking, and mood. When these chemicals are unbalanced, it can cause depression.
When you are in pain daily, it can interfere with your ability to function at work and at home. Participating in social activities or hobbies that you once enjoyed may become more difficult as well. Individuals with chronic pain also tend to be fatigued, experience a decrease in appetite, have trouble concentrating, and face sleep difficulties. These struggles can lead to a decrease in self-esteem, which can lead to depression.
Individuals with chronic pain are four times more likely to experience depression or anxiety as those who do not feel the effects of daily pain. In 2016, about one fifth of adults in the US reported chronic pain. High impact chronic pain affected 8% of adults in the US. High impact chronic pain lasts at least three months and causes the individual to be unable to accomplish at least one major activity, such as going to work or doing household chores. Individuals with high impact chronic pain report more issues with their mental health, including depression and cognitive impairments.
Emotional and Physical Sensations
Pain can be an emotional condition as well as a physical sensation. Someone with chronic pain who can no longer participate in certain social and work activities can experience immobility and isolation. They may turn to drugs to try to alleviate their pain and then can become dependent on those drugs, leading to an addiction.
The relationship between chronic pain and depression can be a vicious cycle. Pain is depressing and, in turn, depression can cause and intensify pain. Individuals who experience chronic pain have three times the risk of developing mood or anxiety disorders and individuals who are depressed have three times the risk of developing chronic pain.
When you experience chronic pain and depression, your pain can slow your recovery from the mental health condition. Likewise, depression can make your pain more difficult to treat. The pain and depression can feed on themselves, changing brain function and behavior. With proper treatment for your depression, your pain can become more manageable.
Chronic Pain and Addiction Treatment at HVRC
Understanding and recognizing the signs of chronic pain can mean the difference in your mental and physical health. If your pain has led to a substance use disorder, it is especially important to get the right treatment for both issues. The professional team at Hemet Valley Recovery Center focuses on your needs as you face unique psychological, medical, and social challenges in your life.
Please contact HVRC for help beginning a journey of recovery. We invite you to take the first step toward healing with our dedicated team of professionals.